Chef Spotlight: Fleetwood Covington, Chasing Michelin

By Michelle Farnham
June 26, 2023

SANDESTIN – What started as a part-time job because he wanted to learn how to make pasta has turned into a 7-year-long new career for Fleetwood Covington, the 35-year-old executive chef at Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood. We chatted with the musician-turned-chef about his team at Seagar’s and where he’s hoping to take it.

Gulf grouper with marbled beurre blanc appeared on a seasonal menu.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you at the restaurant?

A: I typically arrive at Seagar’s in the morning to touch base with the departments. Some days, I will sit in the pit of the restaurant and look up at the line to reflect, inspire and remind myself of our purpose at Seagar’s: to deliver an unforgettable experience to every diner. We typically have our team meeting around noon to go over the layout of the day and pertinent things for service, which begins at 5:30 p.m. I use the time ahead of service for research and development and working with the team to brainstorm new ideas and innovative techniques.

Q: What new equipment have you added to the kitchen?

A: We have recently added Combi Therm Ovens, which also have the capability to inject steam into the chamber and are great for bread-making.

Q: Which ingredients do you most look forward to working with when they come in season?

A: I love spring and summer aromatics, as they remind me of my childhood and the nostalgia of summer break. However, I enjoy incorporating ingredients from winter and fall, as well.

Q: What are you doing to catch the attention of the Michelin and James Beard folks?

A: The first thing on my mind is consistency, as I feel it is the ultimate key to success. When we talk about James Beard and Michelin, I am very conscious about sourcing the best ingredients, and I pride myself in dissecting each facet of cooking to ensure that even the salt we use for seasoning our steaks is the very best quality. Michelin is kind of like that kickball captain: you keep wanting to play for their team but they never pick you. So then you have to be loud enough by garnering enough attention to your restaurant.

Q: How does your past career as a musical artist translate to your current career as a culinary artist?

A: The drama of what food can induce within a person is fascinating – whether it is the nostalgia that one may find through a particular plate, or something that they have never seen before. To wield that ability and thought process is one of my favorite aspects of being a chef. Food can speak a loud message to our patrons, and my musical history allows me to operate from the viewpoint of the audience or diner. I build on dishes from that point of view until I can deliver an unforgettable experience.

Q: It seems you enjoy thinking outside the classic steakhouse menu and pushing boundaries, no?

A: In the last couple years, I’ve become obsessed with food. It’s everything I think about. I go to bed, I wake up, it’s constant. In my office, I have plates, menus, recipes. When you really let go and try to make super honest food but be vulnerable enough to do what you want, it’s those risks that put you in an uncomfortable spot, but I think that’s where you break the most ground.

Q: Who inspires you?

A: I didn’t gravitate towards food itself, but the magic behind what it could be. Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea (Chicago), and Ferran and Albert Adria of El Bulli (Spain) were the first to really make me feel passion for something aside from music. I looked at these chefs and immediately knew where I was going to put every ounce of my time and energy for the next seven years.